There’s lots of back and forth to be had when it comes to which beaches are the prettiest in Florida. But when it comes to the powderiest, there’s really no competition with what you’ll find in Northwest Florida. Stepping onto any beach up this way is like traipsing through the kind of sand you only ever saw sifting through an hourglass, it’s that soft and silky. And some of the best beaches of the bunch are along the stretch known as South Walton, where you’ll find Alys Beach, Rosemary Beach, Seaside and Grayton Beach among the area’s 16 cute beach towns to explore.
Wondering where to stay? Here are three of the best properties in South Walton to launch your explorations of the coastal road called Scenic 30A and the area’s incredible beaches and coastal dune lakes (freshwater oases carved into the sand that are found only here and few other spots in the world!).
Watercolor Inn & Resort, Grayton Beach
Sitting on 500 waterfront acres and hugging the eastern end of Grayton Beach State Park (home to a beach Dr. Beach named the best in the U.S. in 2020), Watercolor Inn & Resort is perfectly positioned for strolling for miles, cycling shady paths (bike rentals are free of charge) and exploring the area’s freshwater coastal dune lakes. You’re pretty much surrounded by conservation land here, with tall longleaf pines and pristine sands at every turn. All 60 rooms have balconies overlooking the ocean and Adirondack chairs angled for maximizing your views. You can stay as active as you like with three golf courses, free kayak and canoe rentals and three swimming pools and a lazy river for kids.
Hotel Effie, Miramar Beach
With access to all the amenities of the Sandestin Golf & Beach Resort (including four championship golf courses, tennis and a private beach), Hotel Effie sits on the bayside of Miramar Beach, fronting Choctawatchee Bay. Despite having 250 rooms, it feels like a boutique hotel. Top Chef alum and James Beard award-winning chef Hugh Acheson helms the hotel’s signature restaurant, Ovide, which riffs on Southern Cuisine with strong French undercurrents. Come sunset, there’s no better view around than the one from the Hotel Effie’s sleek rooftop pool deck lounge, Ara.
The Pearl Hotel, Rosemary Beach
A favorite in Rosemary Beach, The Pearl Hotel is a boutique hotel with just 55 rooms—all with private balconies facing either the Gulf of Mexico or the New Urbanism-style streets of surrounding Rosemary Beach. The property is adults-only (18 years and up), so you can count on a quiet, refined vibe. Turrets and striped awnings on the building’s facade conjure a little of Europe and a lot of New England. But when you relax on one of the complimentary beach chairs on the powder-fine sands or sip a cocktail with sweeping Gulf of Mexico views from the rooftop bar, there’s no doubt you’re in Florida here.
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